Tattoos of a City

TATTOOS OF A CITY

Urban development, city planning and regentrification projects typically include some form of public art in their design. In a more organic form, much of the art dotting city landscapes is created by artists who passionately seek to produce their work on an open-air canvas. “Graffiti art” is a hallmark of creative freedom and expression, and is deeply etched on the map of Miami. All forms of public art- ranging from stealth graffiti to commissioned monuments, are visual landmarks uniquely defining every city in the world, and documenting every era of civilization.

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Art and architecture memorialize both a time in history and a style of local culture. Italy is an example of a country deeply enriched with centuries of public art. From the art of Ancient Rome that proliferated from 750 BC to approximately 400 AD, to such works as Michelangelo’s David and the Trevi Fountain, the image of Italy is closely connected to its public art. David, created between 1501 and 1504 and originally commissioned for a different purpose, was ultimately installed in a public square in Florence; and the Trevi Fountain in Rome (1732-1762, commissioned by Pope Urban Vlll), both exemplify the visual treasure chest of Italy.

As a young city, Miami has quickly developed global renown for its art scene. What does this mean vis a vis public art?

Miami’s Wynwood district is internationally acclaimed for its art, ranging from a growing gallery community, to prolific graffiti art – including the eponymous Wynwood Walls. Emerging from a neighborhood of disrepair, is a bright and edgy growth of artistic expression. The public art is viscerally changing the face of the map.

Both Miami and Miami Beach are cities that are strongly committed to art, as exemplified through the Miami Beach “Art in Public Places” program. Established in 1984, there were already several works of art throughout the city. Mermaid, created in 1979 by Roy Lichtenstein, is a highly visible and recognizable work of art located at Washington and 17th Street. In total, there are now nineteen unique and original works of art positioned throughout the city.

Public art is typically installed with the authorization and collaboration of the government. In different municipalities, the local government actively encourages the creation of public art by implementing a policy based on a percentage of real estate development costs. The City of Miami Beach Art in Public Places Ordinance has established that 1.5% of the cost of city-owned construction projects must be allocated for “works of art in public places other than museums which enrich the public environment.”

Some of the most important projects of the Art in Public Places program have been completed in the past several years. They include Urban Deco, 2008, by Garren Owens; Morris’, 2009, by Dan Graham; Tempest, 2010, by Brian Tolle; Liquid Measures, by Wendy Wischer, 2010; and most recently obstinate lighthouse, by Tobias Rehberger, 2011.

The most recent addition to the portfolio, unveiled in 2011 during Art Basel Miami Beach, represents the promising future. Not only is the obstinate lighthouse a monumental, fifty-five feet tall art work, a stunning addition to the pristine South Park, but the caliber of the artist is world class, and highly regarded by critics across the globe. The winner of the 2009 Venice Biennale’s highest honor, the Golden Lion, Tobias Rehberger and his obstinate lighthouse represents a beacon of commitment to public art in Miami and beyond.